Cather Simpson

Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching

School of Chemical Sciences & Department of Physics, The University of Auckland

"A passion for putting science in the hands of the learners coupled with a strong commitment to diversity". 

As if teaching chemistry and physics to over 1200 science and non-science majors each year is not enough of a challenge, Cather Simpson also teaches in the English Department, linking physics and poetry. She uses innovative large group methods such as ‘Convince your neighbour’ to promote critical thinking and ‘Problem of the Day’ group exercises. She starts with a ‘Last Time’ summary, ends with a ‘Next Time’ preview and ensures well planned, interactive and challenging activities in between. Students respond well as is evidenced by excellent student evaluations and outcomes.

Cather is the creator and director of the Photon Factory, a leading edge laser research and teaching laboratory that has become a ‘must see’ for visitors to The University of Auckland. As a masters student comments, “She truly understands the importance of taking science out of the lecture theatres and putting it in the hands of students, where we conduct real science in cutting edge fields.”

And then, there is the work she does to encourage women, Māori and Pasifika to consider a career in science.  “The door is open”, she says.  “You just need to walk through.”